Verne Riggall never gave the Zephyrhills City Council a chance to fire him.
The embattled fire chief resigned Friday, saying that “baseless attacks of a vocal and aggressive minority of members of the department” have made it impossible for him to do his job.
“There is nothing in this life, or any profession — particularly in the fire service — that is constant,” Riggall wrote in a resignation letter to the council. “Instead, technology and advances in science mean that traditions of the fire service at a subsequent time must be constantly re-evaluated and changed if necessary in light of the present.”
Riggall said he believed he did his best to promote policies within his department that would “safeguard the lives and safety of both firefighters and the citizens of this wonderful city.”
Interim city manager Steve Spina, however, disagreed. In a scathing review of Riggall’s two-year tenure, Spina cited issues that included inadequate staffing of first responder vehicles, low morale among the employes in the fire department, and a strange work schedule Riggall himself maintained, apparently worked around his wife’s schedule.
“Department heads should be available during the day to respond to city council, the public, staff and the city manager, and other department heads,” Spina wrote in a memo to the council. “Most people will not try to contact the chief at 9 p.m., or on weekends.”
Spina put Riggall on paid leave June 2, and prepared a memo recommending the city council fire him and install Daniel Spillman as the assistant fire chief. The city council could do just that at Monday’s meeting.
Riggall was previously the fire chief in High Springs, where he worked closely with then city manager Jim Drumm. When Drumm came to Zephyrhills three years ago, Riggall followed a short time later after city officials there eliminated funding for the fire chief position.
Riggall was named the interim chief in 2011, and permanently earned the job in 2012. Drumm resigned in April after the city council indicated it would not renew his contract.
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